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The SORTEX E optical sorter sets new standards in berry processing

02/16/2012

More efficient shape and colour sorting increases productivity, improves quality and reduces labour costs.

Berry processors throughout the world have trusted the efficiency and reliability of Buhler's SORTEX range of optical sorters for many years. Now, with the availability of the SORTEX E, which employs advanced InGaAs technology, smaller volume processors can improve performance and reduce costs even more than was possible previously. The need for manual sorting by hand pickers is reduced dra-matically.

The SORTEX E has been trialled successfully in Europe and the USA. Two units are currently installed at a customer’s plant in the North West United States to sort blueberries, loganberries, raspberries and other berry varieties. David Adams, Buhler Sortex Business Manager reports that the customer is de-lighted with the results. “The volume handled maximises productivity. After one pass some hand picking is still required but by putting our two SORTEX Es in line, this requirement will be minimised so that the number of pickers needed will be reduced by 80pc,” he said.

The physical characteristics of berries vary. Blueberries, for example, are cultivated commercially in the United States and so are larger than the wild berries that are harvested in Eastern Europe and Scandi-navia.

With cultivated varieties, most EVM is extracted by mechanical pre-cleaning equipment prior to sorting. As a result the sorting process is primarily concerned with identifying discoloured berries and, of course, eliminating any residual EVM. Wild berries undergo a similar process but EVM contamination is at a higher level than with cultivated varieties. The challenge at the sorting stage therefore is to extract a higher level of EVM such as pine needles, stems, leaves and stick fragments. So the sorting process focuses on both colour and shape.

The SORTEX E sorts EVM primarily by shape but is also successful in identifying colour defects. Blueberries, whether discoloured or unripened, can show green or yellow and raspberries, similarly, can be white, pink or brown. InGaAs technology performs a vital function in identifying plastic or wood fragments, cardboard and both light and dark coloured stones.

Buhler SORTEX continues to develop ever more advanced technology for an increasing range of prod-ucts. With the SORTEX E, smaller volume processors can enjoy the efficiencies that they may have believed were only accessible by the largest organisations.

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